Federal agency delivering goal to grow space sector

By Jackson Graham

September 23, 2021

Head of The Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo, prime minister Scott Morrison and SA premier Steven Marshall at the Launch of Australian Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide, March 31, 2021.
Head of The Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo, prime minister Scott Morrison and SA premier Steven Marshall at the Launch of Australian Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide, March 31, 2021. (AAP Image/Morgan Sette)

Three Queensland-based manufacturers and one in South Australia will share in $3 million to help Australia break into international supply chains for the space industry. 

The grants are part of the federal government’s goal from 2018 to triple the national space sector by 2030, and form part of a Moon to Mars partnership with NASA. 

Enrico Palermo, who heads the Australian Space Agency, said the grants supported opportunities where space met manufacturing. 

“These projects are leveraging that relationship to drive economic growth and create jobs here in Australia,” Palermo said.

The manufacturers include Queensland’s Gilmour Space Technologies, Crystalaid Manufacture and Black Sky Aerospace, and Inovor Technologies in South Australia. 

Black Sky Aerospace founder and chief Blake Nikolic said he established the business in 2018 because there was a lack of access to space in the Southern Hemisphere.

Around the same time Australia was establishing its space agency. 

“(Australia) had not been in the space race or game for a number of decades,” Nikolic said. “It gave us lots of confidence; there is lots of work to be done but we are on the right track.”

The business received $678,000 to expand production of a solid rocket motor for commercial use and Nikolic said the product could be used from Mars or the Moon. 

“Globally space is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, Australia having its finger on the pulse is not only a critical requirement it’s fantastic,” he said. 

Nikolic said Queensland’s explosive sector, traditionally supplying the mining sector, helped the state leverage into the space sector.

The grants, targeted at improving supply chains and feeding international markets, are in a third round with earlier funds distributed in March and June this year. 

Acting Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Angus Taylor said the funds helped Australian space businesses scale up and compete in global markets. 

“The grants also provide a tangible opportunity for Australian businesses to support the transformation of our space industry and contribute to projects that will support NASA’s Moon to Mars program,” Taylor said. 

The government is set to announce its Trailblazer Program under the Moon to Mars initiative in coming months, which supports NASA’s endeavours to return to the Moon by 2030 before committing to a journey to Mars.


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